Friday, August 10, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 2.10: Strong Social Fabric (I) - Fronting Up

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−  Upajāti (Ārdrā)
pṛthag vratibhyo vibhave 'pi garhye na prārthayanti sma narāḥ parebhyaḥ
abhyarthitaḥ sūkṣma-dhano 'pi cāryas tadā na kaś-cid-vimukho babhūva || 2.10

Save for those observing a vow,

No man, however lacking in means,
ever begged from others;

And no noble person, however scant his resources,

Turned away when asked to give.

For the 1st pāda, the manuscript from which EB Cowell was working had yac-ca pratibhyo vibhave 'pi śakye, and Cowell amended pratibhyo to pratibhvo (for pratibhuvo). EHJ amended to pṛthag vratibhyo vibhave 'pi garhye, adding that “Many conjectures, none satisfactory, have been made for the amendment of the 1st pāda from Cowell's text.”

Given the scale of EHJ's amendment, any conclusions can only be drawn tentatively but Aśvaghoṣa's intention, I think, was to emphasize – on the basis of recognition of the law of cause and effect -- the strong social fabric of the society the Buddha was born into.

Implicit in today's verse seems to be a recognition that, though the Buddha followed the ancient Indian tradition of the wandering beggar, scrounging in itself is not a personal virtue and does not make for a strong society. Conversely, putting alms in an outstretched bowl of a deserving person, today's verse seems to suggest, is always an act of merit.

Is there merit, or nobility, in the British Government borrowing unsustainable amounts of money on the international bond markets and then using a portion of that money to send foreign aid to emerging economic elephants like India? I don't know, but somehow doubt it. Sūkṣma-dhanaḥ means having little money, or scant wealth – i.e. not having much to give, but at least being out of negative territory.

In the habitual thoughts of British brahmins, the United Kingdom is a rich nation that can take care of itself, whereas India is a poor nation needing help from outside. But the law of cause and effect invariably tends over time to falsify the thoughts of even the cleverest brahmins.

Digging deeper, I have translated sūkṣma-dhano 'pi as “however scant his resources,” suggesting a sense wider than the purely financial, because today's verse speaks to me of fronting up in practice, and continuing to look the bugger in the eye, however close one feels to scraping the bottom of the barrel.

Coming to a tentative conclusion, then, a kingdom or nation tends to prosper, today's verse seems to be saying, when the individuals who make up that society tend not to be irresponsible scroungers but tend instead to front up.

And what has this got to do with the Buddha's one great purpose?

I think the relevance is that Aśvaghoṣa is now exploring cause and effect, and cause and effect is always relevant to sitting. Any pain I feel when sitting, physical or mental, in knee or in heart, is just the effect of causes. And any merit there might be in any deeper insight I glean into what Aśvaghoṣa was intending, is also just the effect of causes.

pṛthak (ind.): (with abl.) except , save
vratibhyaḥ = abl. pl. m. vratin: mfn. observing a vow ; m. an ascetic , devotee
vibhave (loc. sg..): m. being everywhere , omnipresence; m. power , might , greatness , exalted position , rank , dignity , majesty , dominion; m. (also pl.) wealth , money , property , fortune ; m. magnanimity , lofty-mindedness
api: even
garhye (loc. abs.): mfn. deserving reproach , contemptible , vile
garh: to accuse , charge with , reproach , blame ; to be sorry for , repent

na: not
prārthayanti = 3rd pers. pl. pra- √arth: to wish or long for , desire (acc.); to ask a person (acc.) for (acc. or loc.) or ask anything (acc.) from (abl.)
sma: (emphatic) ever, indeed
narāḥ (nom. pl.): m. men
parebhyaḥ (abl. pl.): from others

abhyarthitaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. asked , invited
abhy- √ arth: to request, ask for
sūkṣma-dhanaḥ (nom. sg. m.): of meagre wealth
sūkṣma: mfn. small, feeble
dhana: any valued object , (esp.) wealth , riches , (movable) property , money ; capital (opp. to vṛddhi interest)
api: even
ca: and
āryaḥ (nom. sg.): m. a respectable or honourable or faithful man ; a man highly esteemed , a respectable , honourable man

tadā: ind. at that time , then , in that case (often used redundantly)
na kaś-cid (nom. sg. m.): no one
vimukhaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. having the face averted
babhūva = 3rd pers. sg. perf. bhū: to be

除受四聖種 諸餘世間人
資生各自如 無有他求想

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